You ever been driving around and you see some crazy lady driving around crying and ranting and she's really going for it, but there's no one else in the car with her? Ever wonder who that lady is?
Sometimes, it's me ... under the influence of the Hormone Monstress.
The Hormone Monstress is a character in Big Mouth, a very dirty and funny cartoon about the humiliating world of puberty. My favorite part about the show is how it distills the essence of hormone-fueled, non-rational behavior into a separate character, the Hormone Monstress, brilliantly played by Maya Rudolph. She is perfect, and horny and furious and world-weary and ready to burn it all down. See for yourself:
In addition to being a cartoon character, the Hormone Monstress is also me, every once in awhile, where "awhile" equals 19-39 days. (Thanks, perimenopause, for adding so many surprises to my life!) Normally I'm not so bad, maybe a little snippish at work, or extra inclined to lie on the couch and watch Sense and Sensibility again. Road rage, huge annoyance over tiny slights, tearing up at baby animal videos -- all of that is pretty typical, and none of it is all that bad.
But every now and then, my hormones have a wild month, and when that overlaps with one more more real-life stressors, shit can get ugly. Like last week, when a super busy workday, added to some life issues that are stressful but honestly not THAT bad in the scheme of things, multiplied by Hormone Monstressness, led me to lose my damn mind.
In the moment, I knew I was not being rational. I knew I was leaning into an emotional impulse that was not entirely based on an accurate view of reality. Still, I leaned in. Instead of taking a step back and trying to calm myself, I kept ratcheting the level of drama UP. In the end, I lost about half a day to this emotional ketchup burst. And it took me a couple days to feel like myself again, and not the monstress version.
I'm not in the business of beating myself up. At the same time, I do think it's worth it to look at this incident and, in the interest of reducing the duration and the severity in the future, do a little post-mortem to see how I might be able to respond differently when HM rises up in me the next time. Hormones are gonna hormone -- so what can I do to make my life a little easier when they do?
1) Notice and name it. Part of the issue with hormonal rage is that I feel like I need to solve whatever caused it, in the moment of my rage. This clearly doesn't work at all. Instead of focusing on what I was upset about, I think it would have helped me to focus on how I was feeling. To name it. To say, "This is a storm, not a problem to be solved. I can't sort it out now, and I don't need to. I just need to weather the storm."
2) Don't make big decisions. Don't have big talks. When I'm in this frame of mind, sometime my mind tells me that my entire life is shit and I need to take to the woods and start over. But that is almost never true. Whatever I'm upset about isn't even the major issue in these moments -- the major issue is that I feel hopeless and out of control. That's what I need to address and sort out. Repeat: "This is a storm. I just need to weather it."
3) Distraction, not ranting. Sometimes talking about stuff to get it off my chest is a good thing. In these moments, it's definitely not. All it does is drag me further and further into the hopped-up, indignant, THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT place. What works better for me is major distraction. Going to the movies is perfect because it's an overwhelming sensory experience that leaves little brain space for ranting. The more explosions in the movie, the better!
4) When it's all over, reflect. Because sometimes the thing I was so upset about is nothing, but other times it's real, and it really needs to be addressed! The hormone monstress can be a little over the top, sure, but that doesn't mean she's wrong about everything. As my hilarious old-lady gynecologist once asked me when I told her my birth control pills were making me crazy, "Hmm, is it the hormones making you crazy, or your boyfriend?" GOOD QUESTION. The time to sort all that out is after the freak-out, though, not during.
5) Forgiveness. Forgiveness. More forgiveness. No one likes to be a monstress. At least I don't. But I am a human being, which means I am going to go through and even cause some wild shit in my life, and I categorically forgive myself for all of it. This is one of the gifts of being moderately old now -- I now realize that the only way to deal with myself is lovingly. If I need to change my behavior, if I need to examine my beliefs, if I need to take something on and deal with it -- the only way I'm ever going to be able to do that is from a place of love and encouragement, not from kicking myself in the ass.
6) The In Case of Crazy Kit. I built one of these way back before I wrote my first book, because I realized I was spending too much time hating on my body and I was tired of feeling that way about myself. So I made a little collection of funny notes and helpful suggestions and goofy/uplifting ephemera, so that when I felt myself starting to spin out of control, I could pull it out and look through it and remember that I also have times in my life when I am funny and cool and absolutely fine. Seems like it's time for me to get my kit out again and revamp it for addressing a new set of crazinesses! I think I will add a little portrait of the Hormone Monstress, because it really does help to see these wild impulses as a furry beast played by Maya Rudolph rather than the essence of my own crazy-ass soul.
OK so ... how about you, gentle reader? Do your hormones sometimes overlap with real-life stressors in such a way as to make you want to burn down the entire fucking world? Come sit with me by the fire and let's discuss.